Risks of exposure
Lead is toxic to humans, particularly children and pregnant women. If you are renovating or repainting a home built before 1970, you may be risking exposure to lead. You could even be exposed if old paint is flaking or chalking or has been damaged.
The older your home, the more likely it contains a lead-based paint. Paints used in the 1960s contained more than 1% lead and in the 1950s, indoor and outdoor paints could contain as much as 50% lead. It wasn’t until 1970 that the lead content of paint was limited to 1%.
But it’s not just the paint on your walls that can be contaminated with lead. Lead was also commonly used to solder pipes.
Household dust can also contain lead particles from deteriorating lead-based household paint, contaminated soil or dust brought into the house on your shoes or your pets' feet. Soil can become contaminated with lead by deteriorating lead-based paint or its removal. If the paint is in good condition, it may be safer to cover it than remove it.
Rainwater from water tanks may have increased lead levels if lead-containing dust has contaminated the roof or guttering, or by leaching lead from the roof and pipes.
Lead can enter a human body by inhalation or ingestion and affect almost every organ. Lead poisoning can go unrecognised as it often occurs without obvious symptoms.
What you can do
If you are concerned your home contains lead-based paint or other materials, get advice or have tests done before you try to remove it. Visit the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities website for resources including "The Six Step Guide to Painting You Home".
Last updated: Friday, 26 April 2013